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Jesse van Dijk: What is it like to be working on Destiny’s concept art? (1/4)

Jesse van Dijk: What is it like to be working on Destiny’s concept art? (1/4)


It’s really awesome to see such an incredible turnout. That’s incredibly humbling. I’ve prepared a talk for you today. I’m going to talk about concept art for video games mostly. I will try to keep it somewhat disciplined and agnostic, so that so that even if you’re not specifically looking for information on concept art you’ll find something useful in here to sort of take away. So, a brief overview of what I will talk about specifically. First I’ll give a short introduction of myself. I want to talk about concept art holistically: sort of what I believe are the first and foremost purposes in the production process. Then ultimately I want to conclude with the section where I talk specifically about what I believe it takes to really succeed in making game art, regardless of whether that specifically for concept or another art discipline. Because I believe that when you strip away all the extraneous stuff, it ultimately comes down to just a very few things. So with that said let’s get started. My own personal background: I graduated from TU Delft in 2003. I was basically taught to design coffee making machines. From a very early point in my education I figured out that’s not what I want to do. At the same time, there was a lot of emphasis on process in Delft, which I believe would benefit me regardless of what I was going to do anyway. After that my long time dream came true, where I got to actually work in games professionally. I worked in the Netherlands for a pretty long time. Basically I spend the years between 2004 and 2011 in the Netherlands working on various kinds of games. Then out of nowhere, in 2011 came an offer for me to basically have a chat with a bunch of guys in Seattle. And that led me to actually moving across the Atlantic to start working at Bungie. So this is basically an overview of some the work that I did, before I moved to the United States. I can certainly relate to Meindert’s earlier point, when he talked about projects getting cancelled. The first two images represent about five years worth of work that never shipped in any kind of way. I worked on project Delta for a little bit. Well two years in fact, it never went anywhere and then I spent the next three years working for an IP (intellectual property) what is Vangard Games today. Even though they shipped two amazing games within that IP, the reason I started working there was because I want to turn it into a huge triple A sort of Blockbuster title. That, from the start was certainly the goal of the IP. It was very bombastic in its intent. So eventually I moved to Guerrilla and a worked on Killzone 3 and automatically worked on Killzone Shadow Fall. And after that I went to work for Bungie. So one of the reasons that Bungie was the first and foremost company that stood out for me like a really awesome company to work for is because, they were working on Halo franchise, which got to the point that it was so incredibly successful, that it didn’t really matter what it was and what they were going to do with it next. It was almost a certain success regardless of what it was they did. Despite that they still chose to split themselves off from Microsoft. And sort of embark on this incredibly risky and dangerous adventure, which would eventually become Destiny. For a creative point of view: I thought this was one of the boldest steps that I had ever seen on that scale. The motivation to do that, is what I believe, lies at the heart of successful grid. I believe that’s the motivation Bungie had at the time for doing that lies at the heart of the cycle of decision-making that leads to successful creative industry. You should look at what works well for you and having a bold attitude. Being willing to throw all of it away in the hopes of coming up with an even better product in the end. So that was really one of the main reasons I moved there. This is a picture of a section of our studio. Bungie fundamentally believes that it is important that everybody sits in the same team. You really need a big building to get 500 people to sit in the same room. This is about a quarter of the people that are actually on the production floor. This is the other half of it. This excludes teams like the IT department, the HR department, and the mocap (Motion Capture) studios. The teams that are not directly involved in the development of the product, are not at this floor. They are at their own levels above this. So, what we worked on like I said eventually became Destiny. In many ways it is an evolution of what it is that Bungie has always tried to do. It is a world that you share with your friends. You engage in activities and share them with your friends. We believe that doing things with other people is ultimately more fun then doing them just by yourself. We shipped in September of 2014 and we are proud of the fact that it was the most successful new video game franchise launch of all time. We just released our first expansion pack and I would like to show you a trailer of that right now. So the reason I decided to show you that particular movie was not necessarily to sell you the expansion pack, which is available by the way. But it illustrates very well that it’s a game that contains a lot of stuff. There is a lot in Destiny. There are a lot of different game modes, there are a lot of different people, and there are different kinds off stuff on the people that are playing with you. All of this means is, that the visual design is really important to make sure that the way your world is designed is understandable for people. Despite the fact that there’s such an incredible amount of content that we need to convey to the player. These are some concept images that I did for Destiny. What these illustrate is that like what the concept team does at Bungie is not specifically just provide this graphical polish on top of already existing content. What we do with our group is very small. We are just nine people in comparison to a production team of about 500 people. That is really small. What we do, more than anything, we are the advance guard. We try to, explore certain ideas which means we will be involved in in very specific proposals for certain locations like this. It is also very bare bones architectural themes that we’re exploring. Things like this; how much noise can we afford to have in our scenes until it’s no longer readable. The problem with this is that an environment like that needs to work in a multiplayer map. When you’re basically looking the other way in a split second and you need to be able to tell where everybody is in order to successfully decide what your next action is going to be. Another thing we do is prop design, which is more straightforward. This just calls for like well we have a great box over here, and we need to turn that into something relevant like what is it going to be. And then lastly what we also do is sort of at the very end of the pipeline. We sort of revisit all the locations that we worked on before. And we look at what improvements can be made at the 11th hour with minimal effort really. This is something that the success of that exercise relies very heavily on the concept team. Because it is so easy for them to explore new alternatives regardless of how hard it is to actually make them in game. This allows us to sort of entertain different alternative ideas before we actually commit to them.

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